The Chau Ma in Cat Tien Town, Cat Tien District, Lam Dong Province

The Buon Go village weaving project

Today, the cultural traditions of the Chau Ma ethnic group are sustained in Bun Go village. The village, with its long houses made from bamboo and thatch, is located within the commercial center of Dong Nai town of Cat Tien district in southern Vietnam. The village has 187 people living in just 20 long houses.

In the past, people in this Chau Ma community practiced shifting cultivation and they lived entirely on products, which they themselves harvested and collected. They inhabited a wide area of land, which included forest and terraced hills for dry rice. This land is now designated a new economic zone, and the population is dominated by Kinh (ethnic Vietnamese) people. Following the government’s settlement program, this Chau Ma group has settled permanently in Bun Go where they must learn to cultivate wet rice and vegetables.

The Cat Tien National Park Conservation Project is funded by the Netherlands government. Project partners include Cat Tien National Park, WWF, CARE International, and Craft Link. The project is assisting Chau Ma women weavers to produce traditional textile and new textile products for sale. The participants are receiving training in bookkeeping and management, and are learning to read and write through literacy classes.

The program began in 1999 by choosing four senior weavers to teach traditional skills to over 20 young women. They met in long houses to weave with their portable back straps looms. Though the program ended in 2002, but Craft Link continued supporting this group in product development and marketing sothat they can develop sustainably.

In 2007, realizing that the group needs more inntensive support, Craft Link decided to use its own fund start a complete new project to strengthen the group’s capacity in management as well as to provide them more trainings in design and product development. This new project lasts only for one year, but it had a great result. The income earned from the project will alleviate pressure on forest resources and therefore help the Chau Ma in preserving their natural environment.

The Chau Ma long house

The traditional long house is usually 20 to 40 meters long, and shelters a few families from one clan. Each family has its own door and cooking fire. Nowadays, most people prefer a separate, more private houses. In building a house of any style, the Chau Ma must invite a shaman to make a groundbreaking ceremony. When the house is completed, everyone in the village is invited for a “new house ceremony”.

Marriage and childbirth

Children of a Chau Ma family take their mother’s surname. When a woman bears children, her husband must build a hut for her far from the house. If she gives birth to a daughter, she must stay by herself for 6 days. She must remain in the hut for 7 days if she bears a son. On the day she returns home, her baby’s name-giving ceremony is performed.

Traditional weaving in Bun Go

Women weave on back straps looms, sitting for hours on a bamboo floor, their legs outstretched, and the warp end of the loom held in place by their feet. Traditionally, the Chau Ma raised and spun their own cotton and used natural dyes. Traditional dyes included black from the Neiru tree, yellow from Mut, and red from the bark of the Bosil tree. Today they buy pre-dyed cotton from a factory in Bao Loc.

Chau Ma women weave blankets (ol dal), skirts (oi bul) and loincloths.  The motifs on blankets include:

Watch (dong ho)

Comb (kot)

Umbrella (don ju)

Bird (sen)

Vessel (dnap)

Man (chau)

Man on horse (chau ma xe)

Man in house (hiu hin ma chau)

Buffalo tied to a stake before sacrifice (sa pur)

These motifs have been supplemented over time with new images of helicopters (a repal), long houses with antennae (hiroto) and churches (huu tho)

For more information about this project, please contact:

Craft Link

51 Van Mieu, Hanoi, Vietnam

Phone: (84-4) 3 7336101

Fax: (84-4) 3 8437926




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